I’ve always had a fascination with looking at things from a higher perspective. When I was growing up, I used to hike to the top of nearby hills to take pictures of the town where I lived. When I started flying, I was completely captivated by the change in perspective. Everything looks completely different at 3,000 ft. when you can see the entire landscape from the cockpit of a plane. It’s a much broader and more strategic perspective than you see from the small window while seated in a commercial airline plane.
This perspective has now just become a part of my work. It initially showed up when I started to share some of my pictures with co-workers during meetings. I noticed that it transported them to a different place and changed their mood and energy. Then I started adding the ideas and pictures to presentations. At first I was reluctant to do this because it seemed so familiar and common place to me, and I wasn’t sure if it would add value or if my intentions might be misunderstood. Every step of the way I got positive feedback, so I have progressed to wrapping ideas of reflection and higher perspective into everything I do.
Time in reflection is not time wasted, but rather time invested in seeing how everything interrelates and making sure you are headed in the right direction.
Here’s an example that I hope will help. One of my favorite flights is to fly south from Leesburg Executive Airport in Northern Virginia to Charlottesville Airport in central Virginia. Most of the flight tracks right along the Blue Ridge Mountains, but when you fly general aviation using visual flight rules you have tremendous freedom to chart your own course. Once you reach cruising altitude when beginning the trip (frequently 3,000) you can see the destination as a distant point on the horizon even though it’s 70 miles away. You can also see a lot of what’s in between. You see the mountains, where they rise and fall, valleys, rivers, towns, and the foothills along the way. You can quickly make some decisions on how you might want to alter the flight plan to stay away from hazardous rising terrain, where you might want to point the plane to pass between or around hazards, or where you might want to detour to see something that looks interesting. It’s a wonderful scenic flight especially in the early morning with the bright sun gleaming off the mountains. The whole big picture is there right in front of you. You can take it all in and make some pretty important decisions based on a bigger picture view of what’s ahead as you travel to your final destination.
Now when I drive to the same destination, it’s typically a bit of a tortuous drive on congested winding roads with barely a moment where you can see the surrounding mountains. In effect, you’re stuck in the day to day details of getting from point A to B. You don’t have the opportunity or ability to take a big picture view and make some important decisions that will impact your journey. I can’t see that there may be an accident just 10 miles ahead and now is the best time to detour. In fact on one trip I remember looking down and seeing that exact scenario. I could see the flashing red lights of emergency vehicles and the traffic was backed up and at a standstill for many miles. In this scenario, you are mired in the details and can’t see the big picture that you need to make strategic decisions.
Many often state that the most common failure of leadership is a lack of reflection. Use the metaphor of 3,000 ft. to take you out of your present circumstances to help you reflect more often.